Gisela Hartley

Gisela Emma Hartley, 81, of Eitzen, MN passed away peacefully in her home November 6, 2023 and was welcomed into the presence of God. A visitation will be held at the Fredrickson Funeral Home in Caledonia, MN Friday, November 24 from 3-5 p.m. with a time of memory sharing at 4:30 p.m.

Gisela’s funeral will be held Saturday, November 25 at 11 a.m. at Mt. Hope Presbyterian Church, rural New Albin. A light lunch at the church will follow the service and interment. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Mt. Hope Presbyterian Church, 2574 Church Road, New Albin, Iowa 52160.

Gisela was born to Friedrich and Klara Berger of Jagstheim, Germany July 18, 1942. She grew up as the second of three children in a hard-working farming family. Some of her earliest memories include being surrounded by relatives who came to their farm from nearby cities for safety and food during World War II, and after the war was over, eating her first orange tossed to the children by American soldiers from tanks as they rolled through their village. Though her family endured much during and after the war, she had many happy childhood memories, especially with her sister Maja and brother Fritz.

She graduated from “Volksschule” in 1957 in Jagstheim. Her first job was as a nurse’s aide in Urach, Germany where she worked only during the “off-season” so she could continue to help on the family farm. She then went to nursing school and graduated in 1963. With great pride, she began her career as a nurse in Kempton, Germany. She related many memories of adventures hiking and skiing in the German Alps around Kempton.

Her adventurous spirit led her to want to “see what nursing was like in the United States” and she boarded the ship “The Nieuw Amsterdam” for New York City in 1965. Her first year in the United States was spent on Long Island, NY, where two of her aunts lived, learning English and working as a mother’s helper for a family with a disabled son. She then was an international exchange nurse at St. Luke’s Hospital in Manhattan along with other nurses from all over the world.

In 1967 she passed the state boards and went on to work as a Registered Nurse at Englewood Hospital in New Jersey (1967-1968), and on the IV team at Franklin General Hospital on Long Island (1971-1980). When she and her family moved to Minnesota, she again worked as a nurse at Spring Grove nursing home (1980-1982), and then at Saint Francis Home Care Agency in LaCrosse, WI (1982-1999).

It was in Manhattan that she met Loren Hartley when they both sang in the choir at Broadway Presbyterian Church. They were married in Jagstheim, Germany August 19, 1967, and they honeymooned in Europe in their new blue Volkswagen beetle.

While in Italy during their honeymoon, Gisela was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. To her, this diagnosis felt particularly dire since at that time diabetes was very difficult to control. She often said that she never expected to live to an old age. In her 55 years of living with diabetes she benefited from amazing medical advancements which allowed her to have better control of the disease.

After their honeymoon, Gisela and Loren moved to Tenafly, NJ where their daughter, Christine, was born in 1968. In 1969 their first son, Ben, was born after they settled in New Hyde Park, Long Island. Their second son, David, was born in 1982 after they returned to Loren’s childhood area in Eitzen, MN.

In addition to taking great satisfaction in her work as a nurse, Gisela delighted in the simple things of life. She grew flowers and vegetables in her garden and watched the birds that came to her backyard feeders outside her kitchen window. Her chickens became her pets. She wanted to help beautify the town of Eitzen and planted flowers throughout the town for many years. She was creative with handicrafts like quilting, Hardanger embroidery, and crocheting. In recent years, she began crocheting baby blankets for yet-to-be born great-grandchildren.

She and Loren traveled extensively to a total of 24 different countries. She especially treasured her trips back home to Germany. Most of all, she loved her family, and took great joy in being “Oma” to her six precious grandchildren.

Her Christian faith was important to her. The Bible verse her pastor chose for her confirmation in Jagstheim remained dear and meaningful throughout her life: “You have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy” (Psalm 63:7). She knew Jesus as her Savior and loved to sing great hymns of faith. She was a dedicated member of various churches throughout her life. In recent years, she a was a member of Mt. Hope Presbyterian Church of rural New Albin and was an active part of the Ladies Aide.

Gisela was generous and compassionate. She gave freely to charities. When she was younger, she would visit elderly neighbors and take their blood pressure for them. She was often asked to translate old German letters or documents and would spend hours trying to decipher the old script. She valued stewardship of the earth by recycling, gardening organically, and using resources wisely.

She was preceded in death by her parents, and her beloved sister, Maja (Manfred) Bayerlein. Survivors include Loren, her husband of 56 years; her children: Christine (Joel) Huchthausen of Waterford, VA, Ben (Laura) of Seattle, WA and David (Missy) of Hanover Park, IL; her six grandchildren: Luke (Gillian) Hartley, Tess Hartley, Rachel Huchthausen, Claire Huchthausen, Micah Hartley and Jonah Hartley; her brother, Friedrich (Annerose) Berger; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

The family is grateful for the compassionate care provided by the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center and, especially over the last seven months, Gisela’s wonderful hospice team at Franciscan Healthcare/Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse, WI.

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